Ann Arbor Aluminum Casting Demo

Craft & Design
Ann Arbor Aluminum Casting Demo

Last week, I spoke at the GO-Tech meeting, which was held at the A2 Mechshop in Ann Arbor, MI. I was there for a terrific demo of aluminum casting by Rick Chownyk. He was not only well-informed but very entertaining.

Rick began with a styrofoam mold he had created already.


He had built his own burner for melting scrap aluminum. (He said that you can’t do this using aluminum cans.)


He buried the mold in a bucket of sand. When the aluminum was red-hot, the exciting time for the pour arrived. In the video below, listen to the enthusiastic audience and their questions — this is why these demos are so cool.

Minutes later, after the mold had cooled, he removed it, dunked it water, and raised it high to the delight of the crowd — a metal Make sign!


Rick recommends the site, Backyard Metalcasting, for instructions on how to do this yourself. He also credits the Dave Gingery books available from Lindsay’s Technical Books.

Thanks to Dale Grover and A2 Mechshop for inviting me to speak and to the hundred or so who came out.
A2 Mech Shop, a “co-engineering” space, is a positive sign that good things are happening in Michigan.

20 thoughts on “Ann Arbor Aluminum Casting Demo

  1. says:


    Would it be possible to change how images are included in posts and the RSS feed? When a bunch of really large images (3264×2448 px, for example) are included, and specified to be resized by the browser, it really slows down the scroll speed of the page, both with Google Reader as well as this page itself (on a recent Core2 Duo 2.4 GHz, 2GB ram computer). I’m sure it also costs a bunch of bandwidth for the Makezine webservers, to transfer 10MB of images (for example) for each and every pageview of this article. If the images are going to be displayed smaller anyway, it might be a good idea to create a smaller version of the image, at the proper display size. This would not only save your bandwidth, but it would be better for your subscribers and readers. You could then provide a link to the full-size version if someone wanted a higher-resolution copy.

    Keep up the good work.


    1. Ann Arbor Aluminum Casting Demo Becky Stern says:

      Hi Matthew,

      Have you had this problem with more than just this post? We all use different tools to connect to the blog, and I’m resizing these images now.

  2. J says:

    I was there for this and it was fun. I loved how he kept being asked if he was done yet. MAKING TAKES TIME, DAG NABBIT!

    So glad that the MAKE sign came out beautifully.

  3. Simon says:

    I don’t think aluminium gets ‘red hot’ to be poured. That’s one of the problems trying to weld aluminium. It doesn’t change colour then all of a sudden becomes liquid on you when you’re trying to weld it! You can see it is still silver coloured in the video.

    And I like the picture of the ‘delighted’ crowd. One guy is slightly smirking! In the video they are pretty enthusiastic though. Be a very handy knowing how to mold aluminium. Will follow up on the links!

  4. Dale Dougherty says:

    I’m pretty sure the metal was glowing red-hot before he pulled it out of the burner. We were peering over the edge to see inside the top of the burner.

    1. Simon says:

      Are you sure it wasn’t just the reflection on the silver surface of the steel crucible that probably was glowing red hot?

      I will admit I could be wrong here (it’s a long time since I saw aluminium poured in person) and someone who was there might have a better idea than me in this case :)

    2. Simon says:

      Are you sure it wasn’t just the reflection of the steel crucible that probably was glowing red hot?

      I will admit I could be wrong here (it’s a long time since I saw aluminium poured in person) and someone who was there might have a better idea than me in this case :)

  5. Anonymous says:

    Melted aluminum does not glow red. The electrons in normal molten aluminum do not reach high enough energy states to be able to emit visible radiation; at least at the temperatures that Rick stated he was using.
    Also, my school had a aluminum casting lab, and I saw firsthand that the stuff does not glow.

    1. Erik K says:

      I was there. What was glowing red was not the aluminum, but rather the steel crucible. It looks black at room temperature, but you can see in the video that when it is lifted out of the furnace it definitely appears reddish, even in the sunlight. Bright red when inside the furnace.

  6. Rickomatic2006 says:

    Hi Dale!! Thanks for visiting our club! And, Thanks for the (pardon the pun) glowing review !!
    I have been demonstrating casting for years and I never grow tired of answering questions and casting metal! One member of our Go-Tech club posted how he could hardly sleep thinking of all the projects he could do using the lost foam process !! Just to clarify a few things. The crucible (the pot we melted the metal in) was truely red hot!! Also, when I have casted in the early evening, the aluminum does glow a dull red for a few moments before it solidifies. I am sorry I did not get a chance to talk with you, but I am glad you had a good time! It was truely a GREAT meeting! I would also like to thank Dale Grover and the gang for setting up and running the Go-Tech meetings ! Thanks again! Rick

  7. Anita Mas says:

    I wonder if this is how they make the bigger castings. I have never done this kind of thing. But I wouldn’t even know where to get the aluminum for it anyway.

    Anita Mas |

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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

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